Saturday, December 5, 2009

Early Look: Niagara off to Running Start

Here's the third in the series looking at how conference teams are doing so far. Up now ...

NIAGARA (1-0, 5-3)

The Purple Eagles won their first conference game, an 88-64 decision over Manhattan, by scoring 51 points in the second half. Not much of a surprise there for the fast-paced squad.

Of Niagara's three non-conference losses, one was by two points (to Austin Peay) and another by four (to Auburn). What is a surprise is that Niagara might be the MAAC's shortest team. Senior forward Demetrius Williamson, at 6-foot-6, is the tallest player to start a game for the team thus far.

Here's another point of note: Niagara's scoring has been so balanced that there are currently five players averaging double figures to date. The leader is senior forward Bilal Benn (15.9) whose 11.1-rebound average leads the MAAC.

Other conference leaders so far include Williamson, who has 20 made 3-pointers and 6-5 sophomore forward Kashief Edwards, who has 22 blocks including four against Manhattan. Tyrone Lewis missed four games early with a foot injury, but is back and made his first start against Manhattan.

Insight: If Niagara can play at its tempo it can play with anyone in the league. Williamson and Edwards have both made major strides, so far, from a year ago. The Purple Eagles' perimeter players as as good as anyone's in the conference. As long as it doesn't get hurt on the boards Niagara will contend for the MAAC title and likely be among the conference's top three teams all season.

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